Press Statement: 21 June 2010 Gov’t Must Act Immediately on UN’s Call for the Repeal of Detention-without-Trial Laws and End to Detention of Refugees & Asylum Seekers

The initial findings and recommendations of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) from its country visit to Malaysia from 7 to 18 June 2010 have added to the long list of recommendations and concerns pertaining to the Malaysian government’s legislations, policies and practices of arbitrary detention.

“Classic Cases of Arbitrary Detention” under ISA, EO, DDA, RRA
Among its initial findings of its visit, the WGAD stated that it is “seriously concerned” about the existence and enforcement of laws which provide for detention without trial in Malaysia, namely the Internal Security Act (ISA), the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance (EO), the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act (DDA), and the Restricted Residence Act (RRA).

The WGAD stated that these laws “deny the detainee the right to a fair and public hearing” and “severely restrict detainees’ access to legal counsel”.

During the press conference held by the WGAD on 18 June 2010, its Chairperson-Rapporteur El Hadji Malick Sow stated that detentions under the ISA, the EO, the DDA, and the RRA are “classic cases of arbitrary detention”. The WGAD also noted with concern that “thousands of people” are being detained under the EO and the DDA.

“Systematic” Detention of Refugees
Also of concern to the WGAD is the detention of refugees and asylum seekers. The WGAD’s Chairperson-Rapporteur described the detention of refugees as “systematic”, noting that even refugees who are in possession of identity cards issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees are not exempted from arrests and detentions.

Malaysia’s non-ratification of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and non-recognition of the status of refugees and asylum seekers have resulted in the detention of many refugees under immigration laws in Malaysia for their alleged “illegal presence” in Malaysian territory. The WGAD noted that detainees who have served prison sentences under immigration laws are often held in immigration detention centres for an indefinite period while awaiting deportation to their countries of origin.

Recommendations Not New, No Reason for Delay in Implementation
While the WGAD’s final report will only be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2011, its initial recommendations are clear enough for the government to make immediate efforts for improvements.

Furthermore,similar recommendations have already been made in the past by other bodies – such as the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysian Police, and various UN member states. As such, there is no justification for the government not to implement the WGAD’s recommendations immediately, especially in view of its status as an elected member of the UN Human Rights Council. Moreover, since it was the Malaysian government that invited the WGAD for this visit, it must also be consistent with such commitment by implementing the recommendations made.

Repeal All Detention-without-Trial Laws
On detention-without-trial laws, the WGAD recommended that the ISA, the EO, the DDA, and the RRA be repealed. The WGAD further noted that even if these laws are not repealed, the government must ensure that they are amended to the extent that they are in conformity with Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights spells out the guarantees of the right of every individual to a fair trial.

In other words, even if the government wishes to amend the detention-without-trial laws instead of repealing them, the amendments must ensure that all persons must be accorded a fair trial before being detained. This effectively means that the government must end its practice of detaining
individuals without trial.

Hence, while the government has announced its intention to amend the ISA, the EO, and the DDA, any changes which will merely reduce the periods of detention – including the initial investigative period of detention (currently 60 days) and the subsequent detention order by the Home Ministry (currently 2 years) – would not adequately fulfill the recommendations of the WGAD.

SUARAM thus strongly calls upon the government to immediately re-look into the proposed amendments to all the detention-without-trial laws with additional consideration of the WGAD’s recommendations to do away with the practice of detaining individuals without trial. Ultimately, the ISA, the EO, the DDA, and the RRA must be repealed.

At the same time, the government should immediately end the arrests made under the detention-without-trial laws, and release all individuals who are currently detained under these laws or charge them in a fair and open court.

End Detention of Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Other Vulnerable Migrants On the detention of immigrants, the WGAD stated that “detention of immigrants should be decided upon by a court of law, on a case by case basis, and pursuant to clearly and exhaustively defined criteria in legislation”. The WGAD stressed that immigrants should have an effective remedy to challenge the necessity and legality of their detention at any time.

The WGAD also stressed that immigration detention should not be applied to refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable groups of migrants, including unaccompanied minors, families with minor children, pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers, elderly persons, persons with disabilities, or people with serious and/or chronic physical or mental health problems.

The Malaysian government has also been urged by the WGAD to ratify the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, a recommendation which has already been made on numerous occasions by SUHAKAM as well as UN member states during the Universal Periodic Review of Malaysia in February 2009.

SUARAM strongly urges the government to immediately implement these recommendations, especially in refraining from the arrests of refugees, asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups of migrants. The government should also immediately provide a concrete timeframe for the ratification of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

Invite UN Experts in Other Areas Too
Lastly, while the WGAD expressed its gratitude towards the Malaysian government for its invitation which made the visit possible, and while being fully aware of the fact that the visit of the WGAD as well as other Special Procedures Mandate Holders of the UN Human Rights Council cannot be made without the host government’s invitation, SUARAM wishes to point out that the WGAD had in fact made a request for a country visit to Malaysia way back in 2008. It was only in early 2010 that the Malaysian government officially and publicly confirmed its acceptance of the WGAD’s request to visit Malaysia.

To date, the Malaysian government still has not responded to eight pending requests by other
Special Procedures Mandate Holders, namely the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders (request made in 2002); the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples (2005); the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion (2006); the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants (2006); the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism (2005); the Independent Expert on Minority Issues (2007 and 2009); the Special Rapporteur on Racism (2008); and Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers (2009).

SUARAM therefore calls upon the Malaysian government to extend standing invitations to all Special Procedures Mandate Holders of the UN Human Rights Council, with particular urgency in responding to the eight mandate holders which have made requests for country visits to Malaysia.

Released by,
John Liu
Coordinator

Detained without Trial for Fighting: Draconian EO Must Be Abolished

SUARAM strongly condemns the detention of the Vikneswaran Venugopal under Section 3 (i) of the Emergency Ordinance (Public Order and Crime Prevention) since 11 June 2010 for alleged involvement in a fight.

SUARAM deeply regrets that Vikneswaran, the latest of the countless number of victims of detention-without-trial laws in Malaysia, has not been given access to lawyers and his family since the day he was detained under the EO. SUARAM strongly and urgently calls upon the government to immediately provide the detainee with access to legal counsel and his family immediately.

Release Vikneswaran or Charge Him!

SUARAM strongly urges the police to charge the detainee immediately or release him unconditionally. The detainee must be accorded his right to an open trial with legal representation.

While SUARAM recognises the responsibility of the Malaysian government to curb crime and to deal with criminals, gangs and syndicates, there is no justification whatsoever for the government to resort to detaining suspects without trial in its efforts to address criminal activities, or any crime for that matter. SUARAM stresses that there are ample laws in Malaysia which could adequately deal with the various crimes and offences for which the government currently detains individuals without trial.

SUARAM reiterates that the detention of any individual without trial is a gross violation of fundamental human rights under Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 and the Federal Constitution, which guarantee due process and security of persons.

Amendments and UN Visit: Malaysia’s Failed Public Relations Exercise

While the government has announced its plans to amend the three detention-without-trial laws in the country, the detention of Vikneswaran among the many recent detentions under the EO demonstrates that the government has no intention to make any progress towards complying with universally-accepted human rights standards of the right to fair trial.

SUARAM further notes that the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is currently visiting Malaysia to study the situation of arbitrary detentions in the country. As such, SUARAM calls upon the Working Group to take note of the latest arrest.
That such an arbitrary detention was made even during the visit of the Working Group to Malaysia – a time when the Malaysian government is likely to seek to improve its reputation over such detentions in the eyes of international observers – only goes to show that the rampant use of the EO by the Malaysian government cannot be hidden.

Thus, the Malaysian government’s proposed amendments to the three detention-without-trial laws and its acceptance of the visit of the Working Group, seemingly aimed at improving its image of human rights compliance, are turning out to be a futile exercise as this latest EO detention clearly demonstrates the government’s unchanged position on detention without trial.

End Detention without Trial Now!

SUARAM wishes to reiterate its position that all detention-without-trial laws – the EO, the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act (DDA) and the Internal Security Act (ISA) – must be repealed. In the same vein, SUARAM strongly urges the government to release all who are currently being detained under any of the three detention-without-trial laws, or charge them in a fair and open court of law.

Released by,
Nalini.E
SUARAM Coordinator

Resume water supply at Lenggeng Immigration Detention Centre

(Press Statement: 14 June 2010 )

SUARAM has been informed that detainees at Lenggeng Immigration Detention Centre have been on a hunger strike since evening of Saturday, 12 June, as a protest against the lack of water supply in the detention centre. The hunger strike started when immigration officers denied the detainees drinking water when asked by the detainees. There has been no water supply at the detention centre for the past 5 days.

According to our source, there are an estimated 1,500 detainees at Lenggeng Immigration Detention Centre. The estimated 500 Burmese asylum seekers in the detention centre will continue the hunger strike until they are given access to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

SUARAM has previously expressed our deep concern with regards to the deplorable conditions of Immigration Detention Centres. This is not the first time that we have received complaints that water supply to detention centres is irregular and inadequate. Denying the detainees access to drinking water is an outrageous violation of a basic human right. Even persons in detention have fundamental right to adequate standard of living, which includes adequate and constant supply of water for consumption and maintenance of personal hygiene, as enshrined in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Detainees at immigration detention centres often fall ill due to the poor conditions that often cause malnourishment and poor immune system amongst detainees. The non-supply of water, coupled with the deplorable conditions of the detention centres could potentially cause the increase the risk of illnesses amongst the individuals.

SUARAM demands that the Government immediately restores water supply to Lenggeng Immigration Detention Centre and to ensure that water supply to all detention centres are regular, adequate and clean. The Government must ensure that conditions in all detention centres comply with minimum international standards for places of detention.

SUARAM urges the Immigration Department to immediately provide the asylum seekers access to UNHCR and to allow the UNHCR to process their asylum claims. Upon verification of their asylum claims, the Government must immediately release the asylum seekers in to UNHCR’s official care.

Released by,
Temme Lee
Coordinator
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)

TAKE ACTION: SIGN THE PETITION – Memorandum on Ill Representation and Discrimination of the Queer Community in the Media

To: Suruhanjaya Hak Asasi Manusia Malaysia (SUHAKAM)

June 10, 2010

We refer to the articles published in Kosmo! (“Parti Lesbian Berleluasa”) and the Harian Metro (“Aksi Panas Pengkid, Lesbian”) dated 2nd and 16th May respectively.

We, the undersigned, are enraged by the usage of disparaging words such as “songsang” (deviant), “lucah” (lewd) and “jijik” (disgusting) in the newspaper reports to describe the queer community. The words used by Kosmo! and the Harian Metro and echoed by other newspapers (such as The Star, 3 May 2010) are heavily loaded with moral connotations and paint the queer community unjustifiably and unfairly as deviants and morally tainted.

These recent attacks were first and foremost attacks on sexual rights and, by extension, on human rights. The claim and exercise of these rights are integral to a person’s identity and self-worth and do not in any way contribute to general misconduct or a decline in moral values as wrongly implied by these journalists and newspapers. The continued stigma and discrimination perpetuated by the media towards the queer community (more pronounced since August 2003 when a memorandum was sent to Suhakam then) shows that Suhakam has done nothing to effectively uphold the human rights of the queer community as Malaysians of equal status.

These attacks were also a violation of privacy since these gatherings were by invitation only and exclusive to the queer community concerned.

Besides those two articles which were published recently in Harian Metro and Kosmo!, more than a dozen of articles have been published this year alone in local newspapers (please refer to attachment). These articles are reflective of an ongoing hostile trend by the media towards people of different sexual orientation and gender identity, in complete disregard for their human rights.

We strongly condemn journalists and newspapers who use unscrupulous tactics to obtain their stories and who further rely on sensationalism and titillation to sell their newspapers. We consider these journalists and newspapers unethical and unprofessional because they break the profession’s own standards of good reporting.

Both journalists and editors should be aware of the impact and consequences of how the news is reported especially when it comes to news about the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities where unethical and biased reporting only instigates hate and violence towards the queer community. Creating and encouraging an environment of hate and violence is criminal. As a result of such irresponsible reporting, private spaces are being invaded and violated, thus making it harder and harder for the queer community to enjoy their human rights just like other Malaysians.

In light of our urgent concerns, we repeat our call since 28 August 2003, and urge Suhakam:

First, to push for the protection of the human rights of individuals perceived or identified lesbians, bisexuals, gay, transsexual, transgendered, queer, under the Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Second, to pressure the government to repeal all laws that outlaw and criminalise mutually consensual sexual behaviour between adults.

Third, to further educate citizens on constitutional provisions for the protection of the human rights of citizens and non-citizens, and to further educate the public on the spirit and core values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Yogyakarta Principles.

Fourth, to pressure the government to repeal all laws that restrict freedom of expression and freedom of information.

We hope that together, we will all be able to protect the democratic principles enshrined in the Malaysian Constitution, and strengthen the practice of a truly humane, participatory democracy in Malaysia.

sign the petition online at: http://www.petitiononline.com/kryss/petition.html

Appendix | Lampiran:

1.Grandpa Held in Raid at Gay Joint, Feb 4, 2010, The Star
2.Kisah gay di Malaysia, Feb 28, 2010, Utusan Malaysia
3.Pesta Khatan Berkepit Pondan, March 17, 2010, Harian Metro
4.Serbu Mak Nyah Mencari Pelanggan, March 27, 2010, Harian Metro
5.Belaian Lelaki Jambu, Apr 11, 2010, Harian Metro
6.Pondan Kejam, Apr 14, 2010, Harian Metro
7.Hasutan Cinta Pengkid, Apr 21, 2010, Kosmo!
8.Dua gay durjana, Apr 26, 2010, Harian Metro
9.Parti lesbian berleluasa, May 2, 2010, Kosmo!
10.More than 100 go wild at lesbian party, May 3, 2010, The Star
11.Iklan pasangan songsang, May 11, 2010, Harian Metro
12.Gays put themselves out on social media sites, May 12, 2010, The Star
13.Tv3’s Raid on the gay massage parlour, May 20, 2010, 999 – TV3
14.Pengarah Filem Diugut, May 25, 2010, Harian Metro
15.Mak Nyah Tua Dicekup, May 28, 2010, Harian Metro
16.Tagih cinta gadis, June 9, 2010, Harian Metro

————–
Endorsed by | Disokong oleh:

Organization | Organisasi:
1.All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
2.Annexe Gallery
3.Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW)
4.Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
5.Malaysian Bar Council
6.Positive Malaysian Treatment Access & Advocacy Group (MTAAG+)
7.Straten Malaysia
8.Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
9.Titled World
10.Women’s Candidacy Initiative (WCI)
11.Women’s Aid Organization (WAO)

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

sign the petition online at: http://www.petitiononline.com/kryss/petition.html